Teenage Binge Drinking in Britain: Who’s to Blame?

By Rebecca Lewis on February 20, 2013

Liver disease, high blood pressure, obesity, reduced fertility, cancer and weak heart are just a few of the many harmful effects of binge drinking. And despite the massive campaigns against alcohol abuse, many people are still into it, especially the youth. Why?

For the past years, numerous studies were carried out to identify the root cause of binge drinking and most of the findings were attributed to peer pressure. Recently though, scientists are gaining insights that alcoholism is rooted way beyond the need for belongingness.

Cause of Binge Drinking

In one study, researchers from Flinders University found that social and cultural norms are the foundation, and not just contributing factors for risky drinking. According to Belinda Lunnay, the lead author, teens’ decision to excessively drink is not influenced by their peers. Rather, it is a response to the perceived need to fit in the demand of the society. “Reasons for dirking are far more complex”, she adds.  Lunnay wrote that for many young people, drinking alcohol in a socially desirable way is central to their relationships, friendships and their status in the social hierarchy.

In another study led by Professor Gunter Schumann, from the Institute of Psychiatry at King’s College London, the tendency to binge drink was linked to genetic reasons. The researchers found that teens with genetic variant RASGRF2 were more likely to binge drink than those who did not have such gene.

According to Prof Schumann, RASGRF2 gene plays a crucial role in stimulating the brain to release dopamine – a nerve signalling molecule that triggers the feeling of reward. Thus, people who have this genetic variation have stronger sense of reward, making them prone to alcohol addiction.

Cultural Shift – More teens are backing off from drinking

Records show a decline in the rate of binge drinking among teenagers in Britain. One possible reason for this, according to academics, is the cultural shift that demanded tougher actions and financial constraints from the alcohol industry. From 27 percent in 2005, the number of women who binge drink dropped to 17 percent in 2012.

According to Professor Fiona Measham, a criminologist at Durham University who has been studying drinking patterns in young people for over 20 years, people are clearly shunning the alcohol excesses of previous generation.

The cultural shift has been intensified by massive government campaigns and programmes (in collaboration with private organisations and charities) that promote social responsibility and health awareness. The increase in taxes for alcohol beverages, as well as the banning of advertisements and other restrictions has also contributed to this progress.


Do you think the actions of the government are enough to discourage the youth from binge drinking? Why or why not? Share your comment below.

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